Flu season strikes early in Georgia

Published 8:01am Tuesday, December 4, 2012

GA Department of Public Health Officials Urge Flu Shots

ATLANTA – The flu has arrived in Georgia!  While the flu level is still considered moderate in Georgia, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is reporting significant increases in flu activity statewide. Some Georgia school systems are reporting high absenteeism due to flu-like illnesses.

The flu is hitting Georgia earlier and harder this year than in previous years. The early onset of the H3N2 flu is one indication of a potentially severe flu season.  Symptoms of the flu include cough, runny nose, sore throat and fever.  One of the most pronounced flu symptoms is an overall feeling of achiness and malaise that comes on quickly.

The single most effective way to prevent the flu is the flu vaccine.  This year’s flu vaccine closely matches the strains of flu circulating in Georgia making it effective in preventing the flu or minimizing its symptoms.  Every healthy individual over the age of 6 months should get a flu vaccine.

“Because the flu vaccine so closely matches this year’s flu strains, it just makes good common sense to get it,” said J. Patrick O’Neal, M.D., director of health protection, Georgia Department of Public Health.  “The holidays bring gatherings with family and friends and increase the likelihood of spreading the flu. Now is the time to get vaccinated.”

 

Frequent and thorough hand washing also will help guard against the flu.  Alcohol based gels are the next best thing if there is no access to soap and water.  Cover the nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing to help prevent the spread of the flu.  Use a tissue or cough or sneeze into the crook of the elbow or arm.  Avoid touching your face as flu germs can get into the body through mucus membranes of the nose, mouth and eyes.  If you are sick, stay home from school or work. Flu sufferers should be free of a fever without the use of a fever reducer (Tylenol) for at least 24 hours before returning to work or school.

Based on the early arrival of the flu, this flu season could be a long one.  Peak flu season is usually the end of January and runs through late February or early March. It is important to take preventative measures now to minimize the effects of the flu and stay healthy this flu season.

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About the Georgia Department of Public Health

The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is the lead agency in preventing disease, injury and disability; promoting health and well-being; and preparing for and responding to disasters from a health perspective. In 2011, the General Assembly restored DPH to its own state agency after more than 30 years of consolidation with other departments. At the state level, DPH functions through numerous divisions, sections, programs and offices. Locally,DPH funds and collaborates with Georgia’s 159 county health departments and 18 public health districts. Through the changes, the mission has remained constant – to protect the lives of all Georgians. Today, DPH’s main functions include: Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Maternal and Child Health, Infectious Disease and Immunization, Environmental Health, Epidemiology, Emergency Preparedness and Response, Emergency Medical Services, Pharmacy, Nursing, Volunteer Health Care, the Office of Health Equity, Vital Records, and the State Public Health Laboratory. For more information about DPH, visit www.health.state.ga.us.

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